ASU students share their stories during the winter storm

Sub-Freezing temperatures and water contamination cripple San Angelo and endanger lives.

By Arabella Peña
On March 10, 2021

Design by: Ngoc Tieu My Ta

 

The City of San Angelo battled crises of many on Feb. 9 with benzene, acetone and naphthalene allegedly being found in the water mere days before a winter storm swept through the entire country.

 

Due to this water breach, many campuses, including ASU, and many homes were without water from Feb. 9 through Feb. 23. San Angelo dealt with these water issues for approximately three weeks.

 

Additionally, San Angelo also saw a record-breaking amount of snow on Sunday, Feb. 14. According to KTXS-TV in Abilene, San Angelo received 10.1 inches of snow, which breaks the all-time record of 10 inches of snow back in 1919.

 

Due to an overwhelming energy demand from households attempting to keep warm, power was shut off in rolling intervals for a week. Although Texas energy companies such as AEP Texas and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas claimed the black outs were meant to be incremental, many residents said they went days without power at a time.

 

Angelo State University students were without safe running water from Feb. 9 through Feb. 23, and in some cases, students were even without power for days in the dorms.

 

A. Mutka, an interdisciplinary studies major here at ASU, lives in the PaulAnn area. Mutka and her family prepared for the water shortage and intense weather by buying water cases when the water contamination notice was first issued. In addition to this, her neighborhood provided water for its residents, sometimes in the form of water bottle cases and other times as individual gallons.

 

“My biggest struggle was traversing the snow while taking my dogs outside,” Mutka said. “Three of my dogs loved the snow so much that I had trouble getting them back inside but other than that I stayed inside to wait out the snow.”

 

 She was snowed in for the majority of the first week of Feb. 14, however she was not heavily affected by the loss of power. 

 

“We had power throughout the weeks because our neighborhood shares power with the hospital,” Mutka said. “At most, the power would flicker, but mostly the WiFi was unreliable," Mutka said. 

 

Criminal justice majors Jacob Portillo and Javier Gonzalez remembered the water boil notice as mostly an inconvenience at first. 

 

“It was an inconvenience, especially when we tried to cook,” Gonzalez said.

 

After the water boil notice, everything changed.

 

“The power first went out at night. I thought, 'oh, that’s perfect! I’ll go to sleep and tomorrow it’ll all go back to normal,'” Portillo said. “Then I woke up and we still didn’t have power.”

 

Since the power was out for the majority of the week, Portillo and Gonzalez had to move their food from the fridge to outside in the snow to preserve everything.

 

“It was still freezing at that point and we took all our food and put it in a storage bin, then scooped some snow to dump inside,” Portillo said. “The snow didn’t actually melt. It all stayed pretty well.”

 

Gonzalez said that on the second day, they tried to make the best of it, hooking up a rope to a plastic bin and taking turns pulling each other around River Ranch.

 

“It was all fun and games at first till we realized we’re all cold now and we don’t have anywhere to go warm up,” Portillo said. “After that, we were like okay, fun’s over, turn the power back on.” 

 

“Then by the third day, we started struggling to see what was still open, driving all over the place trying to see where to get gas figuring out where our next meal would be,” Gonzalez said.

 

The third day was one of the hardest for Portillo, Gonzalez, and their roommate because of the extreme temperature, lack of water and wifi. 

 

“We had like six or seven candles lit to have some form of light and we would try to get food early so we could see what we were eating,” Gonzalez said. “That third day was the day we ended up putting our mattresses together in the living room to try to keep warm.” 

 

Despite the extreme weather and lack of water, Portillo and Gonzalez still have great memories.

 

“It was nice to be together. All of us together in that situation, it brought us closer.” Gonzalez said. “We were all together like 24/7 and it was pretty fun,” Portillo said.

 

N. Guererro, a history major living off-campus, also detailed her experiences. 

“My family and I had power for maybe four hours then it would shut off for twelve the first day then it would be seemingly at random,” Guerrero said. “I would go to bed with my heater on and wake up in the middle of the night freezing.”

 

Guerrero said that due to the abundance of snow on the roads, her husband had to stay at his workplace overnight.

 “He said that the snow was as tall as the sidewalk and that roads were hard to drive in even after it had melted a week later,” Guerrero said. “My family and I were lucky to have power banks for our phones and water bottles from when we first heard about the water contamination.”

 

Although most professors delayed due dates ahead of time or even at the first sign of the winter storm, Guerrero said that she was unaware of due date changes. Her internet was down for the majority of the week of Feb. 14 through Feb. 20.

 

“I was panicked and anxious because I had a book report due for one class and no way to submit it. I had done it the week before, I had everything ready but no means to submit it,” Guerreo said. “I stayed on the blackboard link all day waiting for the WiFi to come on and when I finally got power, I got an email stating that my assignment would be due the following week. I was relieved in the moment, but I had been stressed the whole day.”

 

History major, H.W. also gave his feedback on his experience in Centennial and at his cousin’s apartment. 

 

“I have been at ASU for four years. I’m used to something happening to the water at least once a semester,” W. said. “I’ve seen this before, but it has never been so bad that you couldn’t boil the water and that threw me off.” 

 

On the first day of the water contamination, before the snow started, W. ventured to H-E-B to try to prepare for the winter storm.

“H-E-B had already closed for the night but I wanted to get water and snacks to prepare,” W. said. “I had to get up insanely early the next day and practically had to fight my way to get water since there were many people in a frenzy.”

 

On top of needing water W’s online classes still had due dates throughout the week before the power went out. 

“Power in Centennial went out but came on pretty quickly the first few times Sunday,” W said. “Then everything shut off from Monday through Thursday and that is when professors started moving dates.”

 

W. had even fallen in the snow at least twice during the week. 

“I fell on my ribs and it was insanely painful but that’s what happens when there’s ice everywhere,” W. said.

 

“The Caf was packed, more than I had ever seen it... even before COVID-19,” W. said. “Not only was it packed because the warming station was in Plaza but it was also the only place with WiFi, so people came in just to submit assignments and check emails.”

 

 “When I got back to my dorm at around 5 pm and noticed the power was still out, I went to stay with my cousin who lives off-campus. He never lost power but he did lose WiFi,” W. said. “My cousin had gone to H-E-B earlier that day just to get groceries, and he recalled it being packed with people and the shelves were almost empty.” 

 

“My cousin had only gotten one pack of water to prepare. When we ran low, we went to my dorm to get what I had bought,” W. said. “I remember very clearly, the halls of Centennial were so dark that my cousin and I had to use our phones to light the way to my room.”

 

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